People wave Turkish flags as they listen to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a rally to honor the victims of the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, part of the ceremonies for the three-year anniversary, in Istanbul,  July 15, 2019.
People wave Turkish flags as they listen to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a rally to honor the victims of the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, part of the ceremonies for the three-year anniversary, in Istanbul, July 15, 2019.

Story updated: July 15, 2019,  8 p.m. 

ISTANBUL - Turkey commemorated a three-year-old failed military coup Monday, as the fallout over the botched takeover deepens political divisions within the country and strains ties with its Western allies.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended events in the capital, Ankara, to mark the anniversary of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. He visited armed forces headquarters, the scene of bloody fighting. 

In the evening, Erdogan addressed a rally of thousands at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

"On the right of July 15, they (coup plotters) wanted to bury Turkey into darkness, but failed," he said."Allah ruined their traps."

Turkish President Erdogan addresses his supporters during a ceremony marking the third anniversary of the attempted coup at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, July 15, 2019.

Erdogan's arrival at the airport on the night of the failed coup was widely seen as a turning point where he was able to rally support. On the day of the failed coup, he was vacationing at a Turkish resort and narrowly escaped capture by rogue military forces.

The parliament building and presidential palace were bombed. More than 250 people died, and thousands more were injured.  Most of the casualties were unarmed civilians resisting the takeover.

Observers say Erdogan will try to use the commemorations to consolidate his base amid growing discontent and recent electoral setbacks.

There is mounting criticism, even from his supporters, over the severity and duration of the post-coup crackdown. An estimated 150,000 people have been purged from their jobs, and about 70,000 others have been jailed, with arrests continuing to this day.

Two hundred media outlets have been closed, and dozens of reporters have been jailed. According to media watchdogs, Turkey is the world's largest jailer of journalists.

The crackdown had broad political support initially, but that consensus dissipated some time ago.

Critics in Turkey and among its Western allies accuse Erdogan of using the crackdown to silence dissent.

Ankara continues to condemn what it says was its allies' lack of support during the attempted coup, in contrast with its traditional regional rivals, Russia and Iran.

"I think Turkey's Western allies botched the opportunity, the moment the botched coup offered," said international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, in Tehran, Iran, June 12, 2019.

"The first person to come to Turkey (after the coup attempt) was Javad Zarif (Iran's foreign minister)," he added. "The person on the telephone all night long on the night of the coup was (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and Zarif," he said. "The White House had an ambivalent reaction. Nobody bothered to call from the higher echelons of the U.S. government to the Turkish president. The same goes for the European NATO partners. That left a bitter taste definitely in the government's mouth. That also rekindled the resentment in the general public."

The wound of distrust between Ankara and Washington remains open, with the man Turkey accuses of being the failed coup's ringleader remaining free in the United States.

Ankara alleges that U.S-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen orchestrated the attempted coup through his network of followers. Gulen strongly denies any involvement.

Turkey alleges that U.S-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen orchestrated the attempted coup through his network of followers.

Turkish efforts to extradite Gulen have so far failed, with Washington saying Ankara has not provided sufficient evidence. The dispute continues to poison bilateral ties.

"U.S.-Turkish ties will never be repaired, and for the right reason," said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners.

"The United States has to do something about Gulen. At least refer him to the justice system," he added. "I understand (U.S. President Donald) Trump neither controls nor influences the judiciary, but that doesn't mean a probe can't be launched. Both the European Union and America use the crackdown on Gulenists as a religious rights human rights issue. It's not true. You can't sell that to 75% of Turks."

Western diplomats speaking anonymously often voice skepticism over Gulen's involvement, suggesting Erdogan himself organized the coup attempt as a pretext to crack down on opponents.

"A lot of think tanks and diplomats in the West hold that view, which is adding salt to the wound," said Yesilada.

Seeking to exploit the rift between Turkey and its Western allies in the aftermath of the failed coup, analysts point out that Putin continues to deepen ties with Erdogan.

On Friday, Russia started delivery of its S-400 missile system to Turkey. Washington says the purchase violates its Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 25, 2019.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Monday the missile delivery would trigger sanctions. The U.S. has said the Russian hardware is incompatible with the NATO weapons systems. The purchase of the S-400s could lead to Turkey's expulsion from the F-35 program.

Erdogan, speaking in Istanbul Monday, dismissed such threats.

"They said we could not procure these S-400 missiles, but we did, and we will deploy them. And God willing, in the future, we will enter into joint production (with Russia) to produce them in the future," he said.

This month, a survey by Kadir Has University found 81% of Turks saw the United States as a threat. Facing growing public dissent over a slowing economy, Erdogan is playing the nationalist card by ramping up his anti-American rhetoric.

"He can play this game of playing the nationalist card. When you ask people, 'Do you like America or not?' I think everybody will say, 'No, I don't,'" said sociology professor Mesut Yegen of Istanbul's Sehir University.

"But if it causes an economic crisis because of (U.S.) sanctions," he added, "it can create this feeling (that) we are doing well, but this guy (Erdogan) with his strong nationalism creates some major problems. There is a feeling among Turksthat the United States could be an enemy, but we've always managed to live together with the United States. There is a sense of realism."

Turkish pragmatism could yet be a check to further deterioration in U.S.-Turkish relations, but observers say Ankara's distrust of Washington over the failed coup will likely persist and continue to poison bilateralties.